By William Hicks

WASHINGTON—With a Friday deadline approaching, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson urged Congress on Monday to reach a consensus bill before funding for the agency expires.

The agency’s responsibilities include border security, airport security, and disaster relief.

“None of this is free,” Johnson said. “We need a partnership with Congress to support our efforts.”

Congress passed a bill in December funding most federal agencies through September, intentionally leaving DHS unfunded as a way to challenge President Barack Obama’s executive order that protects millions of illegal immigrants from deportation.

An amendment allowed DHS to be funded only through Feb. 27.

Johnson said his agency needs a funding bill with no amendments tied to Obama’s executive order — and that regardless of which political party receives the blame, shutting down DHS will have real consequences for national security, DHS employees and their families.

Homeland Security employees more than 230,000 people, according to its website. Between 75 and 80 percent of employees would be deemed “essential staff” and required to work without pay if funding ceases for the department, Johnson said.

Although most employees who have jobs related to saving lives and protecting property would still be working, as many as 15 percent of the DHS workforce could be furloughed. This includes about 10 percent of the Transportation Security Administration workforce, law enforcement trainers and the bulk of the department’s management and headquarters administrative staff, according to a DHS fact sheet.

“If our headquarter staff is cut back to a skeleton, that inhibits our ability to stay on top of a lot of the existing situations and challenges to homeland security right now,” Johnson said. “That is not good for the homeland security of this nation, it is not good for public security and it is not in the public’s best interest.”

Businesses would also be affected if furloughs happen because the agency would be unable to maintain and operate its E-Verify program, which allows employers to check the eligibility of people to work in the United States.

Johnson also warned members of Congress about the dangers of “kicking the can a few weeks down the road,” referring to a temporary funding resolution.

“It’s like trying to drive across the country with no more than five gallons of gas in your tank and you don’t know when the next gas station will appear,” Johnson said.

Republicans are blaming Democrats for blocking passage of the bill

“The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, in a statement last week. “Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate.”

Democrats say funding Obama’s immigration policy should be a separate issue from DHS funding, and are urging the GOP to separate the issues.

“Democrats have been clear from day one about the way out of this mess: Take up the clean Homeland Security funding bill which Republicans signed off on in December – and which is ready to come to the Senate floor – pass it, and move on,” said Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a press release. “If Republicans want to debate immigration policy next, Democrats are happy to have that debate.”